Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

2024 Iowa Caucuses narrow the Republican playing field

DJ Mara
Iowa GOP party volunteers count caucus votes at West Des Moines precinct 316, located in the cafeteria of Valley Southwoods Freshman High School. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

The 2024 Iowa Caucuses came and went for voters across the Hawkeye State, with record-cold temperatures putting a damper on the usual fanfare and crowds flocking to caucus events. According to the Des Moines Register, only 15 percent of registered Republican voters showed up to caucus in person. 

Typically, Iowa Democrats and Republicans caucus during the same weekend, first tending to party business, and then taking an informal “straw” poll at each precinct for president. In 2024, however, Democrats are doing things differently. 

According to ABC News, Democrats are not holding in-person straw polls for their presidential nominee preference. Instead, they will utilize a mail-in voting system for voters to note their choice by March 5, also known as Super Tuesday. 

On the Republican side, candidates held retail-style events to convince caucus-goers to support them.

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson—who has since dropped out of the presidential race—held a meet-and-greet–style event on Saturday, Jan. 13, at Gravitate Coworking in Des Moines. The event was largely filled with college students, and Hutchinson took questions from attendees for around thirty minutes after giving a stump speech. 

During the Q&A portion of the event, Hutchinson offered advice to younger generations trying to break into politics.

“Always ask yourself, ‘Why am [I] doing this? Why am I interested in this?’ Make sure you have the right motivations. There is a role [for you] to play, and it’s critically important,” Hutchinson said to members of the crowd.

Former President Donald Trump canceled three of his four in-person events leading up to the caucuses but held a rally the day before the caucus at Simpson University, a private Methodist liberal arts college in Indianola. 

Trump’s rally had an overflow room, where attendees watched his event being held upstairs via livestream. Trump repeated many of his canned statements and continued claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, many of which were thrown out by the Supreme Court in 2021.

“Tomorrow, [on caucus day], it is your time to speak your mind and turn on the Washington swamp,” said Trump. “We’re going to take this country back. We’re going to make it greater than ever before.” 

Photo: DJ Mara
Former President Donald Trump (R-FL) holds a campaign rally at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina, held an afternoon rally at Jethro’s BBQ in Ames. 

Haley was introduced by Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, who gave speeches for multiple candidates throughout the weekend. Ernst’s role throughout the weekend was largely to emphasize the importance of voters showing up to caucus in addition to energizing and motivating the crowds at these events to do so. 

Haley was accompanied by her two children, Nalin and Rena. Over the weekend, Haley’s children had a competition about who could knock on more doors and get more “Commit to Caucus” cards filled out. It was unclear who won the contest. 

“We have a country to save,” Haley said. “You can be a start to the solution by playing a part in this caucus.”

Photo: DJ Mara
Former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) speaks at a campaign rally held at Jethro’s BBQ in Ames on Sunday, Jan 14, 2024. (DJ Mara/Beacon Staff)

Ryan Binkley, a pastor from Texas, was the first candidate to visit all 99 counties in Iowa before the caucuses took place. He held a rally on the eve of the caucuses at the Des Moines Airport Holiday Inn.

“We are going to do our part to support this nation. Iowa, let the nation know the voice of this man, Ryan Binkley,” his wife Ellie said.

Throughout his speech, Binkley repeatedly mentioned that “Something is missing in America,” mainly referring to national unity and American pride. 

Binkley ended his speech by declaring, “It’s going to take Iowa to bring us to the national stage.” 

“Do you believe in better days ahead?” said Binkley. “Can you see a nation that’s united again?”

Photo: Rian Nelson
Ryan Binkley (R-TX) speaks with supporters after a campaign rally at the Des Moines Airport Holiday Inn on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (Rian Nelson for the Beacon)

All candidates certified to be on the ballot were invited to have supporters give stump speeches on their behalf. Trump, DeSantis, Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy had speakers at this precinct. 

Caucus-goers were then invited to handwrite their choice for the Republican nominee on a slip of paper, all collected in various cardboard Amazon boxes and sorted by party volunteers. 

Haley won the straw poll at Precinct 316, receiving 109 of the 240 votes cast. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis came in second place with 64 votes, followed by Trump with 51 votes, and Ramaswamy with 16. 

Photo: Rian Nelson
Former presidential candidate, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), speaks to supporters at the West Des Moines Sheraton after coming in second place in the Iowa caucuses. (Rian Nelson for the Beacon)

Following the caucus itself, members of the Emerson delegation attended DeSantis’s caucus night party at the Sheraton in West Des Moines. 

DeSantis received the endorsement of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and multiple GOP congressmen, including Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Rep. Rick McCormick of Georgia. 

Notable at the DeSantis rally were the song choices, which included “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty, “Made in America” by Toby Keith, and “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy. 

DeSantis, who came in a distant second place in the Iowa Caucuses, railed against many prominent media networks’ early calls to project Trump as the caucus winner before many precincts even cast votes. 

Looking to the future of the campaign, DeSantis noted, “People want to have hope in this country’s future, and that’s what we represent.”

On Sunday, Jan. 21, DeSantis suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed Trump shortly thereafter.


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DJ Mara, Assistant News Editor
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